Trinity Thomas will go for Paris — Other gym news — Kathy Johnson Clarke on Simone Biles

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, July 8, 2023

Happy Gymnastics Saturday! Because it was not enough simply to get a second master’s degree and become a graduate assistant coach for Florida, Trinity Thomas announced this week that she will also try to make the U.S. Olympic team for Paris.

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This news was not a complete shock to me. I interviewed Thomas around this time last year for a piece that ran in Just Women’s Sports during NCAA nationals, and she hinted that she was not only not finished with gymnastics, but also contemplating a return to elite.

And for anyone who is familiar with Thomas’ backstory, it’s probably not a huge surprise. Thomas was one of the very few gymnasts who competed elite and NCAA simultaneously before the current quad/the NIL era. USA Gymnastics did not make it easy for Thomas; she was required to attend national team camps during NCAA season and once famously drove overnight from a college meet to a camp her freshman year.

By her sophomore year, she decided to stick to NCAA. But she spoke wistfully at times, including to me last summer, about how the younger crew of Olympians and world champions who competed alongside her at Florida — including Leanne Wong, Morgan Hurd, Riley McCusker and Kayla DiCello — were inspiring her to give elite another shot.

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Thomas is a very successful multitasker, from doing multiple sports in addition to elite gymnastics while in high school to balancing first college courses and then graduate courses while competing at Florida. Now she will balance coaching — a whole different side of the sport — with training and competing elite plus the course load for a master’s degree in entrepreneurship.

Thomas will not be the only athlete juggling multiple commitments while going for Paris. Jade Carey will compete NCAA while training elite, and Wong seems likely to do the same, though she has not announced her training decisions yet. But if there’s anyone I trust to fulfill all of her responsibilities to the fullest, it’s Thomas.

What I most admire about Thomas’ run for Paris is her constant willingness to break down doors for the gymnasts who come after her. She is proving that it is possible to succeed at both elite and college gymnastics, at both school and sports, and with the seeming respect of everyone who encounters her. I think it takes a particular personality to manage all of this successfully, and if you cannot manage it all successfully, you’re still doing great. Still, I have found Thomas to be one of the most personally inspiring and positive athletes I have ever interviewed, and I’m rooting for her.

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Other gym news

The Balance Beam Situation has an update featuring German champs and U.S. Classic.

The Gymternet has results from the Central American & Caribbean Games, the Swedish championships, the Epernay Friendly in France, and the second round of the Bundesliga in Germany.

Lyden Saltness changed her commitment from Auburn to Illinois.

We heard about a lot of assistant coach jobs this week. NCAA Division I teams can now pay four coaches on their staffs (previously, they could pay only three, and most teams hired volunteer assistants in that fourth slot), so we’re seeing a lot of those hires coming through now.

Jackie Terpak moves from Arkansas to Missouri, where she’ll be the new assistant coach. Razorback Nation gave her a nice sendoff.

Cali Harden is Michigan’s new assistant coach.

Autumn Grable got the promotion to assistant coach at UCLA.

Jeremy Miranda is Florida’s new assistant coach (Thomas, as mentioned above, assumes his former role of student assistant coach).

Brooke Leonard-Fincher is now an assistant coach at Auburn.

Social post of the week

Simone Biles acknowledged some nerves about her impending return to elite competition on her Instagram Stories on July 5.

A screenshot of an Instagram story from Simone Biles with the text, "sorry I've been a little MIA since the announcement [heart emoji] I'm overwhelmed with all of your messages, support & love! excited to get back out on the competition floor! xoxo Simone [kiss emoji]"
Simone Biles shared a response on July 5, 2023, to fans’ reactions to her announcing that she would return to elite competition. (Screenshot of Simone Biles’ Instagram Stories)

Five at The IX: Kathy Johnson Clarke

Speaking of Biles, Kathy Johnson Clarke (a 1984 Olympian and current NCAA gymnastics commentator) spoke to NewsNation this week about Biles’ return to competition.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Lela Moore